Now that OWF's '31 Days of Horror
' are firmly under way, get ready to feast your eyes on the truly macabre. All fans of the genre know that the mark of a great horror film is a devilishly gruesome death scene. Whilst not always overly gory, the best death scenes in horror are shot, acted and brought to life in unforgettable ways. Whether they stay with you in your nightmares or are memorable for their tongue in cheek effectiveness the following scenes are the best committed to the silver screen of horror. So grab your obligatory cushion and prepare for a scare (and, in all honesty, the occasional guffaw!)... (spoilers ahead
10. Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike in DEATH PROOF (2007):
Having spent a good hour and a half pursuing a group of daredevil girls in a car that, lets face it, really shouldn't have a woman driver behind the wheel (sorry ladies, I know that there are some of you out here that could give Jenson Button a run for his money!), the brilliantly creepy Kurt Russell
gets his comeuppance in the final scene. Although not strictly a horror film, these final moments of Death Proof are more gruesome than the majority of the rest of the genres output. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vk2iAs8xA8&p=DFC19F8FE7E36CC3 When Rosario Dawson
one hell of a badass chick! - smashes ol' Kurt's face in with the heel of her boot you're left thinking was he really that bad a guy!?: Well, he did do a similar thing to Rose McGowan
with the dashboard of his car earlier in the film bad, yes, but also extremely entertaining. And then you remember that he made 'Poseidon' (2006)...and suddenly, it all makes sense!
09. The Razor Wire Scene in SAW (2004):
If theres anything that truly scares me, its the thought of being trapped in a cage filled with razor wire. Now Im not the kind of guy who breaks into a cold sweat at the thought of having a shave every morning, but there is something distinctly unnerving at the thought of something so sharp slicing so close to your jugular. The thought of wading through miles of barbed wire is truly the stuff of nightmares! The original film in the now tired Saw franchise took this fear of mine and caused me to actually cover my eyes during a horror film for the first time in my adult life! Embedding disabled, scene HERE
. As Jigsaws victim begins ploughing through that cage of razor wire in order to escape, without fail my skin feels like its burning with a bajillion lacerations. This scene is what made the original Saw a gruesomely entertaining movienow theyre just ridiculous! Relying less on the gore factor (although theres still plenty!) the power of this death scene is in the psychological element of the horror. Despite not being the most ludicrous of torture scenarios it is by far the best in the series, but as they say, its the simple things that are the most effective
08. The Tanning Teens in FINAL DESTINATION 3 (2006):
The one genuinely terrifying moment of this, at best, mediocre horror sequel, is when those two teenage girls slide into those tanning beds and the viewer instantly knows whats going to happen. What ensues is stomach churning gore and a slightly too realistic for comfort death scene. The relatively obvious theatricality of many horror death scenes (the always too red blood, the obviously floppy knife etc, etc) is replaced here with utterly convincing CGI imagery. As someone who is prone to getting sunburnt yes, even with the ridiculously protective factor 30 sunscreen on as soon as those girls skin begins to literally boil (it actually bubbles, blisters and bursts right in front of your eyes!) a little bit of sick never fails to enter my throat! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRuuPhibtoQ What 'Final Destination 3
' lacks in competent acting (Mary Elizabeth Winstead
is not on top form here and Ryan Merriman
as the lead high school male is 35 if hes a day) and tangible narrative devices, it makes up for with this one scene. Whats truly horrific about it is not even the scarily realistic gore, but the fact that left long enough on a sun bed this is what really would happen If the threat of skin cancer doesnt put you off roasting yourself, Ill eat my own (sun) hat if 'Final Destination 3' doesnt!
07. The Unfaithful Husband and The Mistress in STRAIT-JACKET (1964):
When an ageing Joan Crawford
steps off a train and sees her husband in bed with another (much younger!) woman, the last thing you expect is to see her lop off their heads with two almighty chops of a rather large axe! From the title it's obvious that you're not getting one of the jolly romantic comedies she made during the 30s with Clark Gable
, but there's something hilariously pleasurable about watching the former 'shop girl come good' and 'cold-hearted ice queen' images of the star evolve into the unhinged, maniacal bitch in a dodgy wig! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UR-raJzq5yU Despite being rather unrealistic it was 1964 after all the opening scene of Strait-Jacket is still one of the best death scenes out there. It's relatively graphic we do actually see the axe go through their necks! - and it's definitely beyond cheesy, but at the end of the day it achieves it's aims: it shocks! Director William Castle
famously tried to use the plastic heads from this scene in as many of his films as possible. When they reappear in a later scene to haunt a restless Crawford in the night, the results are (unintentional) comic genius!
06. Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN H20 (1998):
Sadly, this is the only death scene involving the demise of the villain on this list. If I had the time and opportunity to write the hundred greatest death scenes there would certainly be more included. But this is by far my favourite scene where the baddy gets whats coming to him! 'Halloween H20'
is a relatively nostalgic film throughout original star Jamie Lee Curtis
returns; her mother Janet Leigh
, the original scream queen features; the narrative revolves around Laurie finally being able to move on from her traumatic past and the closing death scene of Michael Myers is a similar affair. The climax of the film is brilliantly taut; pitching Laurie against Michael in what audiences know will be the mother of all showdowns! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qv09LcNHCw When Laurie finally lops Michaels head off, as a self-respecting horror fan you cant help but feel satisfied that shes finally done what youve screamed at every protagonist of the genre to do for as long as you can remember! The twentieth anniversary of John Carpenters original vision nicely wraps up the entire saga and puts a final butchers knife through the franchise: a perfectly nostalgic endingand then they had to ruin it, by making 'Halloween Resurrection'
05. The Cruise Ship Holiday Makers in GHOST SHIP (2002):
Bar its opening scene, 'Ghost Ship
' genuinely has little, if any, redeeming features. However, this opening scene is so shocking and so ingenious that it fully deserves its ranking here. The first few minutes of the film are extremely deceiving, particularly due to the unthreatening, romantic soundtrack. However, this false sense of calm is shattered when we begin to see the wire rope wind up and we know that something ghastly is about to be bestowed upon us The scene relies entirely on atmosphere and expectation to generate suspense and all we need to see and hear is the taut metal rope and the sound of it slicing through the air to put two and two together. The real power of the scene comes after the wire has ploughed through the passengers and we see it vibrating, dripping in blood. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KlV4SSGXWo The suspense remains as the passengers momentarily remain frozen on the spot, only to fall to the ground in pieces after what seems like an eternity. As they lie in bits on the deck the true horror of the scene is unleashed. An everyday piece of cruise liner equipment becomes the grisly device of massacre and the apparatus of one of the greatest death scenes in horror cinema. Nowif only someone had suggested this to James Cameron, then he could have certainly cut down the 733-hour runtime of 'Titanic' (1997) considerably!!
04. Paris Hilton as Paige in HOUSE OF WAX (2005):
When Paris Hilton
was announced as a supporting player in the modernised and revamped 'House of Wax
', all promise of it being a genuinely spooky horror film died faster than the victims of a 1980s slasher. Many of those who had been looking forward to this new version suddenly turned their attention blood-soaked pastures new (i.e. Rob Zombies vomit inducing 'The Devils Rejects'). Others, however, relished in the potential of the hotel heiresss (sadly) fictional demise... What 'House of Wax' lacked in horror...suspense...good acting (you name any traditional horror trope, it most likely lacked it), it more than made up for when audiences got what they most likely came for Hilton's death! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwhGy_1_GA0 When that spiky, rusty pole splices through her Botox filled forehead complete with fantastic sound effects and all there's a sense of satisfaction that isn't often garnered by other horror demises. Despite putting up a fairly decent fight for a brain-dead, blonde bimbo, the films greatest achievement is that in this brief moment audiences get to relish in thought of there being one less party girl heiress who's proved she can't sing or act in the world! I can't help but love this film, but if I'm honest forget the rest and skip straight to this scene!
03. Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in PSYCHO (1960):
My opinion on 'Psycho'
has been ardently articulated here at OWF: I firmly believe that it is the greatest film of all time!
And Janet Leighs
death scene in the shower is one very solid reason for this accolade being bestowed on Alfred Hitchcocks
masterpiece. The scene is a near perfect blend of suspense, surprise and sheer horror. The visual, tonal and audio elements blend beautifully to create one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history, let alone the horror genre. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VP5jEAP3K4 The talent of Hitchcocks direction, George Tomasinis
editing and Janet Leighs performance shock and terrify audiences time and time again. The frantic cuts of the actual moments of murder brilliantly juxtapose the languishing dissolve from the draining plughole to the dilated pupil of the now dead Marion. Never has the technique of filmmaking so effectively captured the intentions of the narrative. Quite simply, death scenes rarely come better than this!
02. Drew Barrymore as Casey in SCREAM (1996):
The opening sequence of 'Scream
' is possibly the most iconic image of 90s horror. Similar to Hitchcocks 'Psycho', Wes Craven
used the ingenious ploy of killing off a major star so early in the narrative to shock audiences. The sequence is a film studies students dream: full of self-referential imagery and an atmosphere that well and truly puts its tongue within the proverbial cheek, opening horror scenes dont come better than this. The tension is built superbly, as the voice on the telephone goes from being slightly creepy to downright scary! Drew Barrymore
is excellent as the high school teen who has to witness the murder of her football playing sweetheart, only to suffer a similar fate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH36Z9t0cBk As the scene unfolds, the film is set up as an analysis of the entire genre. As the rules of the slasher film are explained by the stereotypical film geek, whilst simultaneously being lived out on the screen, its not hard to see why it was so brilliantly spoofed by the makers of 'Scary Movie' (2000). As contemporary horror goes, very few films can live up to the sheer brilliance of Drew Barrymores death scene for an opening.
01. Edward Woodward as Sergeant Howie in THE WICKER MAN (1974):
I'm taking a bit of a gamble here, as I'm sure many will disagree with Janet Leigh's 'Psycho'
shower death scene being relegated to winning bronze medal over this in fact a part of myself disagrees with my decision (what with my previous arguments for 'Psych'o being the greatest film of all time in my first OWF feature)! However, for me, the death of Sergeant Howie at the end of 'The Wicker Man
' is superior as it's simply one hell of a sucker punch! Whilst not only being one of the genres most horrific death scenes, it simultaneously shreds your entire faith in narrative cinemas typical notions that good will prosper and evil will be conquered. In mainstream horror cinema, equilibrium is generally restored and despite all the earlier deaths the viewer is instilled with a sense of finalisation and a belief that life will return to normal within the fictional world of the films characters. Embedding disabled but scene HERE
. Howie's death at the conclusion of 'The Wicker Man' prevents audiences from regaining this restoration of normality and, as such, is the greatest death scene because of this. The horror of it remains with you after the end credits roll and you almost feel cheated; the hero isn't supposed to die! Therefore, BEST DEATH SCENE EVER!